Street foods and “hole in the wall” eateries define a city character; its idiosyncrasies, trends and above all they provide the necessary “inclusive eating” wherein the class barrier breaks down. Delhi is overflowing with such joints. For some, you need cast iron lined stomachs, others require you to have your triglycerides checked soon after you have slurped the last remnant of “once upon a time I was a little lamb” and for others, better keep your glucometer ready to check your post meal sugar spikes. Or is it! you would be surprised how your up market eatery nutritional values are all messed up equally or more. Just because the lovely hostess shows you your usual seating near the French window on the 15th floor which gives you a panoramic city view or the soothing mellifluous melodies flowing thru the ergonomically located Bose speakers or the wonderfully crafted Burmese teak beams overhead, it does not mean that purest carbs and proteins are doing a tango with the best artery unclogging oil that the money can buy. These up market eateries also dunk their dishes in copious amount of oil or butter ( if its French, its worse, the clarified butter is the innocuous term used for lowly butter from which last remnants of water have been taken out, so it’s pure fat in its ugly form, the hollandaise sauce only uses egg yolks and nothing else!, so it’s a calorie time bomb, not to speak of its effects on your lipid profile!), humungous amount of salt and even after you have insisted with utmost snootiness “ no aginomoto please”, you will be surprised what all magic your favorite up market eatery does which makes all the dishes that you swear by so delicious. You will be surprised that at least the friendly hole in the wall eatery has such a terrific turnover that bacteria or salmonella hardly get any time to sneak in, the dishes keep going in and out with ferocious speed, its piping hot and slurpy delicious.
Many a times, just because a eatery has been around for decades, it becomes famous, not because it offers a terrific taste but a sort of aura builds around them. It’s a proven fact that whatever we eat during our childhood, the smells and taste gets embedded and you keep liking those tastes as you grow older and always have a sense of comfort eating those, a sense of “good ole days” as you say. Nirulas, UPSC Chaat, D Pauls at IOC building, Egg paranthas near Vikram Hotel,Nizams Kathi rolls near Plaza, Madhuban Chinese van at Yusuf Sarai, Dosas in INA market, Bengali sweets at Bengali market and many others fall in this category. The flavors and tastes aren’t extraordinary, but they remind of our childhood days and that hook is forever. So let’s move on.
Culinaire: The best Chinese take away or home delivery is Culinaire at Chandan market in GK 2 market. We never get tired of ordering from Culinaire and its taste remains consistently same and great. Its great comfort food. Nothing gourmet it’s yummy. Their Lamb in oyster sauce with black mushrooms and Shanghai chicken share the honors’ at the peak. Dim sums, honey chicken and Man chow Soup come a close second. The delivery times are usually maintained and the packing is fine. So if you’re shivering in cold, don’t want to get out the comfy blanket, taste buds are still tingling, grab your phone and give this place a call. You will not be disappointed.
Futomaki: This is really a hole in the wall Japanese take away at Hauz Khas Village. Trust me, even with the address, it’s very hard to locate. Its 13A Haus Village. Tucked away in a sleepy village, it’s a gem. Futomaki (fat rolls-they are larger and more filling than your regular sushi rolls) has a limited menu of 9 different types of sushis and is being run by a Japanese guy. He prepares the salmon and tuna rolls on order and other stuff is displayed in a tiny see me thru cabinet. The tempura prawn roll, salmon roll, teriyaki chicken roll and vegetarian Granny roll is superb. Every pack has six sushi and they are big and filling. A normal pack comes for 280/- and Salmon/Tuna comes for 340/-. They also have a tiny sitting. But the taste nearly is perfect. Many a times, this shop runs out of sushi, so the owner just closes the shop-period. It’s cute, comfy and homely. Do give it a try. You will reach out for more.
City of Joy: This small eatery at Alaknanda delivers lip smacking, wonderful comfy Bengali food. You pick up the phone and the guy at the other of the line is ever eager to talk to you, explain the nuances of various dishes. The jumbo prawn malai curry, Illish Paturi, Bhetki Paturi and crab masala are to die for. The jumbo prawns come inside a real coconut, the gravy is delicious, in paturi, you open the banana leaf and the mustard smell wafts thru your nasal senses, as you bite into huge sizes of mustard coated fish- the pungency hits you and its sheer divine. Try their papda Jhol or pona kalia. They are equally good. You don’t need to worry about the small bones getting stuck up your mouth, but please get your lipid profile done if you turn out to be their regular eaters.
Ahad Sons: This smallish looking joint in a sleepy dusty lane by the side of Uday Park DDA market is a gem for Kashmiri dishes. One can visit the place, order, get it packed and eat at home. Home delivery is limited. Consistency and quality of food is top notch. As is with the Kashmiri cuisines, it is biased towards ghee and isn’t exactly cholesterol friendly. But once in a while, it’s worth a try and one can compensate it by running for 45 minutes extra at your favorite gymnasium at a top speed of 11Kms/hr! For non-veg, you will have your usual suspects of Rista, Ghushtaba, Seekh Kabab and the lovely Tabakh Maaz (it gives chor bizarre at Hotel Broadway a run for their money any day) and for Veg option, stick to the lush Haakh (Kashmiri Spinach) & Nadur Yakkni (Lotus Stems in curd). It’s heavy on the stomach, but tastes divine.
Carnatic Café at New Friends Colony market is the new kid in town for all dishes south of India. So give your Sagar or Sarvanna Bhawan a miss for a change and head towards this place. Its small, homely and the only place in New Delhi (yes, the only place!!) which serves Raagi Dosa. If you can have multigrain bread, multigrain atta, why not Raagi Dosa.
Al Kauser near Malai Mandir, R K Puram: If I have a tossup between Al Kauser, Col Kabab and Khan Chacha- I will give the heads up to Al Kauser for its melting Kakori Kebabs. Very difficult to construct and make, Al kauser is miles ahead on this and also it’s Dum Biryani. Col Kebab takes the honors’ for its succulent and very smooth mutton seekh Kababs.They are real fatty and if you don’t eat them quickly, in winters, one can actually see the ghee/oil solidifying alongside the rims!!. Babbu Khan at Matka Peer dargah next to gate 6 of Pragati Maidan delivers the best oil laden but delicious biryani in town..well, a dargah by this name is located next to gate number 6 of Pragati Maidan. There is no takeaway unless you have booked in advance.The best part is that you can specify the proportion of mutton:rice and it will be made accordingly. So pickup the phone and dial 011-23371454 for Babbu khan, order your bespoke biryani and drive to Purana Quila, pickup your biryani and pray that your triglycerides romp back home in fine fettle.
Al Bake : Delhi has seen mushrooming of doner kabab, shishtouk joints and generally they all serve the same fare. There is nothing that distinguishes two such joints. You have a guy grilling a huge lob of chicken meat in front of a vertical grill, chicken fat dripping down, he deftly slices shavings of the chicken lob, toasts the pita bread, lays down the shavings neatly, pours some hung curd, some spicy chutney, oinions and all and you have your doner kabab ready. But truth be told, doner really goes well with lamb/beef that is generally served in bylanes of European cities.I have had lovely doners at Helsinki, Mannheim in Germany and Mulhouse in France. But lets come back to saddi Dilli and head for New Friends Colony market. Its virtually teaming with innumerable non descript mughlai joints whose clientele are either college kids always short on money during daytime and drunken uncouth tribesmen late evening. Amongst all this is a shining jewel Al Bake. Doner Kabab is decidedly different from the rest of Delhi. The filling has several spices, its dripping with fat and flavours. Within 5 minutes, your order arrives, you slurp, comment on the flavor, slurp and feel satiated. This is the best Doner that Delhi has to offer.
One of the best safed matar & kulcha combination is near the park in the central market lajpatnagar. The guy sits on the road, has a huge vessel storing boiled safed matar. With deft hands, he swishes out the matar, puts them in a biodegradable cup made of dry leaves, puts in salt & chillis to taste, some ginger and coriander; and voila a rustic delicious concoction is ready. Most of the times it is singularly consistent and only oddly he messes it up by putting in too much baking soda in the matar. Otherwise, the taste is great, its great comfort food, nutritious, very light on calories and high in proteins. You may choose to take the maida kulcha or avoid it and take the “matar only” package. Everybody comes there, from your rickshawallah, to your next door jewellery laden auntie, to your school/college going kids, the medical reps, door to door salesman, corporate honchos; its what “inclusive eating” is all about.
Who doesn’t like the good old “gol gappas”. How much do we hate them, complain of lack of hygiene, we all come back to bite into their crisp exterior, savoring the sweet red chutney, going down to the boiled channas & aloo bits and gulp down the pungent, throat hitting jal jeera paani. We never fail to ask the hawker if the jal jeera water is made from “bisleri”, he also nods his head in agreement, and we all happily believe in the lie that he tells day in and day out. Actually, we just wanted to hear that lie, to convince ourselves that all is well and get down to the business of slurping the gappas by the dozens. The hygiene is generally in the pits, but who cares, the smell is so intoxicating that one just gets washed away!!.Delhi is generally swamped by these vendors and they are always available at the corner of every market without fail. The tastes are generally alike but it’s the jal jeera paani that the “bhaiya” dunks the gappas in that make all the difference. My personal favorites remain the gappas made of “suji” (they are thicker), lots of sweet chutney, generous helping of channas and loads of childhood memories. My favorite is the friendly chaat wallah in South Ext II next to cake palace. Its not even a hole in wall as it is free standing hawker. Superb place to have your chaat. Incidentally you also get vodka spiked gol gappas in Delhi but the jal jeera ones are miles ahead.